Before Cindy dreamt up the idea of PugHearts, she was a foster for another non-local rescue group. She already had a very good idea of what it took to run a rescue and what kind of needs she would encounter. As she set up PugHearts, she called on people around her that understood those very special needs. Some had already fostered for other groups, some had adopted rescues. But all of us had that “whatever is best for the dogs” attitude. We all agreed that we wanted an organization that would treat the rescues just as they did their own dogs. We did not want to open a shelter where our dogs lived in cages until they were adopted out. We wanted to allow these rescues to live in a safe, nurturing home environment until their forever home was found. We also insisted that we would not adopt out any dog to a home that we would not feel comfortable placing our own pets in. And so, PugHearts was born!
We’ve gone from a very small group of people that could all fit in Cindy’s living room (with our dogs running around, of course) to a vast network of people spread throughout the Houston area. Our commitment to our dogs has remained.
We now have around 100 dogs in foster care. That takes a lot of people giving a lot of time and energy to these furbabies. And we appreciate it more than we can possibly express. But I’m going to take a moment to let everyone know what’s involved and just how much these volunteers contribute!
Unlike a lot of organizations, PugHearts takes a very “hands-on” approach to selecting both foster and adoptive homes. In fact, we require the same standards for a foster home that we would an adoptive home. It makes sense, as we want these dogs in the best environment possible during their stay with us. So, a home visit is mandatory before approving a foster home. We want to see the environment these guys will be living in during their fostering. We aren’t worried about dust bunnies or décor; we want to know the environment is safe and secure. If there is a backyard, is it fenced? Are there other animals or children in the house and if so, how will they react to an “outsider” in their home? Does the potential foster parent treat their animals as we want our rescues treated?
As a lot of our dogs come in to us abused or neglected, we also have to be sure they are going to a nurturing environment. Some of these dogs have never had a person show them affection. Many have never lived inside a house before. These are significant challenges that our fosters work to overcome. They teach these babies that it’s okay to trust humans, that they need to go outside to use the bathroom, they don’t have to “defend” their bowl against another dog eating near them. They teach them socialization. They teach them about love. And that can take a lot of patience.
All of our fosters are responsible for seeing that any dog they have gets the necessary medical care. Usually that consists of taking them in for check-ups, maintaining their Heartguard and Frontline administration and any after-care from spay/neutering or routine dentals. Many of our fosters also administer daily eye drops or ear medications and see that follow-up visits with our vet are kept. Some do much more, as some of our rescues have significant medical issues. Unfortunately, we get a lot of dogs that are heartworm positive, so we need fosters who can care for these babies as they undergo treatment. We also get dogs in with severe injuries that require intensive care. We get the occasional hospice dog that needs a special home to live out their final days. And of course, you never know when an unforeseen emergency will happen. Our fosters need to be able to get our rescues to our vet in the event of an emergency, even if that means 11pm on a Sunday night. We have an amazing group of foster parents who look after these furbabies as though they are their own and help get them in the best health they can, so they can go to their forever homes.
We have a fantastic website that allows people to look at a dog’s photo and biography to determine what dog might be a good fit for them. Those photos and bios usually come directly from the foster themselves. They take the photos you see. They write up a bit about the dog they are fostering, ‘cos who knows them better? They tell us, and potential adopters, what kind of home would be best for their rescue.
Meet & Greet
One of the big differences with PugHearts is how we screen our potential adopters. In addition to the adoption application with reference checks, we also want to see how our rescue will fit into that new home. So not only do we conduct a home visit to see the environment, we take the potential adoptee around to meet the members of the family and get a feel for how they will do in that home. We call it a “Meet & Greet.” Most often, the foster parent takes the dog themselves. We feel that since nobody knows that dog better, they are the best judge of how it fits into that home. Sometimes another volunteer does the actual home visit and the foster instead meets the family someplace else for the Meet & Greet. Either way, the foster has taken time out of their schedule to try and find the right home for their rescue.
We have a lot of people that are looking to adopt a dog, but they can’t quite narrow it down to just one to meet. Sometimes we schedule multiple home visits, but sometimes it’s a lot easier to tell that person to come to an adoption event where they can meet multiple dogs. So, we ask our fosters to bring their dogs to these events throughout the Houston area. That means our volunteers are giving up their Saturdays, or evenings, or sometimes entire weekends (like the Reliant Dog show) to try and find a forever home for their rescue. We cannot begin to thank them enough for giving up so much of their time.
So, as you can see, our fosters are pretty special people. They give up a lot to help us help these furbabies. It’s a lot more than just putting a roof over their heads. It’s time, patience, heart and soul. It can be sleepless nights, tears, stress and yet it can be the most fulfilling and rewarding feeling ever. We are eternally grateful for all they do. Somehow it doesn’t seem enough just to say it, but Thank You!
I also need to take a moment to clarify what fostering actually means. When you foster a rescue, you are agreeing to provide a temporary home for a dog until we can find a permanent adoptive home for it. Fostering is NOT a “test drive” to see if you want to adopt a dog. When you agree to foster, you do so with the understanding that the dog belongs to PugHearts and we are trying to find it a permanent home. We require the foster to play an active role in finding a forever home for that dog so that includes bringing the dog to adoption events and Meet & Greets. We also require the foster to be able to get their rescue to and from the vet as needed. We pay for the medical care, but we need our volunteers to be an active participant in the dog’s medical treatment. We do not pay for food, treats or toys – though whenever we receive donations of these items we will gladly pass them onto our fosters. Obviously, we cannot pay our volunteers for what they do for these little guys. But I can assure you that you will get back far more than you put in with these furbabies. Their unconditional love and the feeling of satisfaction you will get cannot be measured.
For those of you who are reading this and think you’d like to help, we encourage you to get in touch with us to discuss fostering. We would love to have you help! We do ask that you be sure you are able to fulfill the commitments we require. If you have the time, space and love to give, please fill in our Contact form and select “Fostering” to let us know you’re interested. Or ask us in person next time you see us at a local event!
PugHearts of Houston